Inside Snow Shower Garden were more bamboos and buttonwoods. It was exceptionally silent between trees and branches, and fallen leaves and broken branches decayed on the ground, making it soft on the foot. The air was moist and fresh
According to Chu Yu’s guess, Rong Zhi was probably with those two people, and maybe more that came in before them. They were probably gathered together in a dark room with Rong Zhi as their leader, seated in the center, and all the others around him, discussing and planning something bad with dark expressions.
Person 1 says: Hehehe.
Person 2 says: Like this and like this blah blah blah.
Person 3 says: This way our treacherous plan could succeed quack quack.
……All the above is purely Chu Yu’s exaggerated and silly imagination.
The truth was far from expected. Chu Yu quietly sneaked into the red doors like a thief, but after only two or three steps, she surprisedly saw the center of evil in her imagination leisurely resting on a bluestone platform under a buttonwood, holding up a bamboo scroll in his hands. When Chu Yu found him, he also noticed Chu Yu’s arrival, and looked up.
In comparison to the layers of greens, Rong Zhi in his snowy white garment was extraordinarily distinct. Chu Yu stared at Rong Zhi, and Rong Zhi also gazed at Chu Yu. His black irises were too deep to percept, like a black hole at the end of the universe that could swallow everything, like the never reachable ice and snow at the highest of mountain peaks.
Twitching her mouth, Chu Yu returned to her senses. She looked around, but didn’t see the two that came in earlier, so she turned back to look at Rong Zhi.
One standing, one sitting, sending thoughts and emotions to each other like conducting electricity across the distance of more than a foot. Probably because the conductivity between the two wasn’t enough, besides her eyes getting tired, Chu Yu didn’t acquire anything else.
Maybe because he thought welcoming the princess like this wasn’t acceptable, Rong Zhi slid the bamboo scroll into his sleeve.
Chu Yu twitched her lips again, and turned to head towards the pavilion behind the bamboo grove. Since those two weren’t in the woods around them, they must be in the pavilion. Quickly walking out the bamboo grove, Chu Yu softened her steps. This time she wasn’t disappointed: faint voices sounded from the two half shut screens ahead of her.
Slight noises came from behind her. Turning her head, she saw that Rong Zhi had followed her over. Chu Yu raised her brows, saying in her heart, so what are you going do now? Make some noise to warn them? If Rong Zhi purposefully made loud noises, then good. That would give her more reason to suspect that the conversation inside was shady.
Rong Zhi smiled lightly. He blinked quickly, signaling for Chu Yu to follow him.
Shooting a glance back at Yue Jiefei, who had been following not far behind, Chu Yu placed her heart down. Curious about what Rong Zhi was up to, she softened her steps even more and followed him up to the window. At this time, the voices from inside the pavilion was already very clear.
When she first heard them, Chu Yu was a little excited. She thought she could get hold of some secrets. But when she was able to clearly percept the conversation, she was disappointed.
Two sweet male voices sounded inside the room, one gentle and soft, the other energetic. When mingled together, they sounded exceptionally harmonious. Chu Yu peered in from a slit in the window. Two shadows were casted onto the ground, nearly completely overlapped; and the masters of the shadows were kneeling behind a table by another window. The two were leaning on each other’s shoulders, looking at the spread out bamboo scroll on the table.
The unknown youth with a classical elegance was slightly taller. He stretched out his slender finger, pointing at somewhere on the bamboo scroll, and said to Jiang Yan, “What you just said, I don’t really agree. Look here……” After that was his reasoning based on literary quotations.
Jiang Yan tilted his head. Sunlight shone in from the window, landing on his brows and side face, making the his cold features gentle. Even though only a little spring air leaked into the room from the window, the Jiang Yan now, was as if entirely in springtime, so different from his appearance in the apricot woods.
The two were debating on a literary topic. Sometimes presenting their own arguments to the other, sometimes smiling and listening to the other speak, accompanied by slight nods of the head. But to Chu Yu, who couldn’t really understand what they were discussing, all she felt was that pink, dreamy fog floating around and enveloping these two.
This atmosphere was way too dubious.
In her before life, in the twenty-first century, there was a culture that was popular on the internet, called BL. Basically novels and stories about two beautiful men falling in love with each other. Although Chu Yu knew a little about it, she wasn’t that into it. What she didn’t expect was that going back in time for more than a thousand years, she would meet alive cut sleeves1 .
Originally Chu Yu had wanted to pry out the secrets of Jiang Yan and the others, but now that she did pry out some secrets, it wasn’t the type she wanted to. Like how a husband, planning to catch the adulterer with his wife, when lifting the up the quilt, saw two men in a huddle on the bed.
This gap between expectation and reality made Chu Yu very disappointed.
The conversation on literature between the two was too deep and professional; the more Chu Yu listened, the more confused and bored she became. Thinking that there’s no point in continuing this, she decided to leave.
Thinking this, Chu Yu accidentally glanced towards Rong Zhi, who was standing on the other side of the window, but saw him listening intently. He was elegant already, but such an expression made him even more attractive. His black and moist irises were like the star-filled night sky: peaceful, profound, and beautiful.
After a while, the conversation between the two in the room reached a point of contradictory views. The debating voices suddenly escalated; only then did Chu Yu regain her senses. Seeing that Rong Zhi was still listening, she extended her hand and patted his shoulder, then pointed towards the woods, motioning for him to go talk over there.
Entering the woods, the two stood across each other. Chu Yu gazed at him, but didn’t speak. After a long pause, Rong Zhi started first; he sighed lightly, then said, “Since the Princess has already seen for herself, I shouldn’t keep faking. Huan Yuan is not sick. When I said he was sick in bed, I was lying.”
As he magnanimously acknowledged his lie, Chu Yu, after a pause, also made the connection between the beautiful youth with a high hat and wide belt and the name Huan Yuan. This name stood out to be one of the two male concubines that claimed to be ill and didn’t show up to her banquet.
Chu Yu chuckled quietly: “How dare you.” She revealed no emotion, neither happiness nor anger, so Rong Zhi couldn’t guess her thoughts immediately. He sighed again and said in a low voice, “Huan Yuan has a stunning talent. Such people appear probably only once in a hundred years, so it’s inevitable for him to be a little arrogant. Added to his oddly rough life, such behavior was born. Please don’t punish him too severely, Princess.”
His random words made Chu Yu feel like her head was stuck in fog. This was the first time she met that Huan Yuan, and as for his background and temperament, she had no idea whatsoever, while Rong Zhi’s mediating words were spoken from an all-knowing point of view. Due to the difference in knowledge, their understandings couldn’t match either.
Naturally, Chu Yu wouldn’t inquire about more details or exactly what was going on. Going off of Rong Zhi’s pleading mercy for Huan Yuan, she smiled faintly and replied, “Okay, I won’t look into this matter any further. Count it as a favor towards you, but do not let me find out any more of this sort.”
She also formed some probable guesses in her heart. Version one, Huan Yuan was a handsome man from a good family, but was seen by the princess while walking on the streets. She suddenly fell in love with his looks and kidnapped him back to the palace. This handsome boy was smart, talented, knowledgeable, and with a promising future; but after being liked by the princess, all of his bright future was ruined on the princess’s bed.
Version two: Huan Yuan and Jiang Yan were a pair of model cut sleeves, but too bad they were both born with good looks, therefore forcefully broken up by the Princess of Shanyin, and both became hers. His lover was snatched and he still had to serve his rival in love, no wonder he hated her.
No matter which version it was, of course Huan Yuan deeply hated the Princess of Shanyin. But there was nothing he could do, so he distracted himself by discussing literature and poetry with others. Or he was secretly meeting his old lover? And he would try to avoid her banquets at all costs, and it’d best if he could pretend to be sick for every single day of the year.
But only later did she learn, that although her guesses about Huan Yuan weren’t all correct, they were already very close.
1. Cut sleeve: gay in ancient China. This novel was written in 2008 so yeah… I’m sure the original author didn’t mean to be homophobic or anything just in case anyone feels that way…↩